Which is better for fat burning – cardio or weight training? | Exercise.com Learn: Your Fitness Business Resource

Which is better for fat burning – cardio or weight training?

Tyler Spraul is the director of UX and the head trainer for Exercise.com. He has his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-medicine and is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. He is a former All-American soccer player and still coaches soccer today. In his free time, he enjoys reading, learning, and living the dad life. He has been featured in Shape, Healthline, HuffPost, Women's...

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UPDATED: Aug 25, 2020

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  • When thinking about exercise there are optimal ways to maximize calorie expenditure and increase metabolism
  • There are also other lifestyle aspects such as diet and alcohol consumption that impact weight loss and your ability to benefit from your exercise program
  • Most experts agree that a combination of cardio and weight training is the most effective exercise program

As with many aspects of exercise, the answer to this question is more complex than you might think.

There are pros and cons to both types of workouts in relation to fat burning and weight loss, as well as many other aspects to consider when hoping to slim down.

Many people beginning a workout program in hopes of losing weight will wonder which is better.

Opinions differ on any exact combination of weight training and cardio exercise that will be the perfect weight loss solution, but research does prove that the keys to losing weight are expending more calories than you intake, and increasing your metabolic rate.

For workout plans that will help you reach your goals, sign up for an Exercise.com PRO plan today.

The Pros and Cons of Cardio

While some weight training gurus will try to tell you that you can have an ideal fat burning workout by lifting weights alone, you really cannot ignore the benefits of cardiovascular exercise.

The first key to losing weight, as mentioned above, is burning more calories than you take in during the course of a day, and cardio burns more calories than weight training.

When performing sustained cardio exercises for 20-45 minutes you also will experience what is called “afterburn” whereby extra calories continue to be burned for a period of time after your workout.

This only happens when your heart rate has stayed elevated during your workout. The best cardio exercises to raise your heart rate and burn fat include:

  • Running – 800 calories can be burnt in a 40-minute run!
  • Cycling – 30 minutes per day is great for reducing thigh fat and belly fat
  • Swimming – The breaststroke is considered the best stroke for burning the most calories in the least amount of time

The downside to doing a cardio workout alone is that you do not build and tone muscles the way you do with weight training.

While you will burn a lot of calories, doing cardio by itself will neglect the other important aspect of weight loss, which is increased metabolism.

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The Pros and Cons of Weight Training

While cardio is important and has its place you should not neglect weightlifting and resistance exercises when you want to burn fat and lose weight.

Your metabolism improves whenever you increase your muscle size and with increased metabolism comes increased calorie burning and therefore, weight loss.

For every one pound of muscle you gain, you burn 50 additional calories a day.

While it has long been thought that the best way to burn fat while weight training is by doing a high number of repetitions using a low weight, research is proving otherwise.

For those who think weight training is time-consuming, you can build a lot of muscle by using a higher weight and doing an average number of repetitions (10-15 per set considered best).

Weight training alone is not your best option either; weight training is great for building muscle to increase your metabolic rate.

However, the exercises done while weight training do not increase your heart rate enough to lead to significant calorie burn in and of themselves, and afterburn is minimal, at best, after simply weight training without doing any cardio exercise.

Other Cardio versus Weight Training Factors to Consider

When you are starting an exercise program with a goal to burn fat and lose weight you will fail no matter what type of workout you choose if you do not also examine other aspects of your lifestyle that impact weight loss, metabolism, and the body’s ability to benefit from exercise.

These include:

  • Diet and nutrition – Simply exercising will not help you if you are not eating a healthy diet and keeping unhealthy fats and sugars in moderation.
  • Alcohol intakeAvoiding alcohol is always considered best, but this is often hard, so keep your drinking habits in moderation.
  • Drinking water – Staying well hydrated by drinking plenty of water every day is one of the keys to losing weight. Water is always a better choice over sugary, caffeinated, or carbonated beverages.

Cardio vs. Weight Training for Fat Loss

Although some may disagree, most experts feel that a combination of cardio and weight training exercises incorporated into a workout routine is the best way to burn fat and lose weight.

Cardio burns lots of calories which is a key ingredient in weight loss.

Weight training increases muscle size, which speeds up metabolism, another key ingredient in weight loss.

Combine these with other factors such as a healthy diet, limiting your alcohol intake, and drinking plenty of water, and you will have that beach body in no time!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How many days a week should I exercise?

Three to five workouts a week is recommended for best results.

How do I create my own weight training workout plan?

You can either sign up for an Exercise.com PRO membership or enlist the help of a personal trainer!

What is proper weight training form?

In order to learn proper weight training form, meet with a personal trainer so that they can walk you through the proper technique needed for a wide variety of lifts and exercises.

Get started now designing your personalized workout routine and find out for yourself which is better for burning fat – a cardio workout or weight training. Sign up for a PRO plan today!

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